Despite protective cups being widely available, USA Softball (a regulatory body that governs over 150,000 teams nationally) doesn’t make them mandatory for adult players. That means because it’s not an obligatory bit of kit, many catchers choose to forgo a cup entirely.
Though it may be a chance in a million, there are still a lot of good reasons to keep your privates well-protected.
Good enough for the gander and the goose
If you want to keep the family jewels safe while playing sports, there are three widely available types of gear: the jockstrap, protective cup, and pelvic protector.
These three often get mixed up or used interchangeably, but it’s vital to illustrate the difference. The important distinction is that the first one won’t provide you with protection if you take a direct hit with a softball.
Now considered old-fashioned, the jockstrap is kind of a mullet version of underwear—coverage in the front, party in the back. It was created to keep your bits from between your legs to prevent them from getting pinched or aggressively jostled while running, jumping, or sliding around.
The cup is a triangular receptacle that fits into the pouch of a jockstrap and should fit snuggly over your genitals. They’re made from every material imaginable: plastic, resin, steel, aluminum. They’re often perforated to let your bits breathe, but fashion cups in softer materials are also available.
The jill, aka pelvic protector
The most recent invention of the three is the pelvic protector. Made for catchers without external business affairs—but still in the line of fire—Florida man Ronald Paramore is credited with making the first female jockstrap (and the pelvic protector that goes with it) in the late 1990s.
So do softball catchers wear cups?
USA Softball, the governing body for softball in the USA, has a rule for youth leagues that states, “A male catcher or any male player warming up a pitcher shall wear an approved protective cup.”
But weirdly, there isn’t anything stating adults catchers needto wear one. The rulebook doesn’t even mention them.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t smaller leagues that have rules making cups mandatory, but USA Softball sets the bar, and chances are if they’re not making all catchers wear them it’s safe to assume that most aren’t.
Should softball catchers wear a cup?
We got a lot of nerves
Whatever you’re packing in your trousers, we have a lot of nerves in our downstairs parts. As a result, any damage taken to the bathing suit area could at best keep you on the bench for a few innings, and at worst have to make a trip to the ER (and an even longer absence from your team’s lineup.)
Not a typical injury
In softball, most injuries experienced are related to which position you play. As a catcher, you’re spending a lot of time squatting like a gargoyle on a gothic cathedral and throwing overhand from an unnatural position. You’re probably no stranger to knee, back, and shoulder pain.
Though genital injuries are less common in softball, they do still happen. The journal American Family Physician reports that between 2-5% of injuries incurred during sports occur in the groin. Though not all of these will be related to taking a fast pitch to the boing-loins, they are included in these numbers.
You’re not expecting to take the same kind of hit as a football player or MMA fighter when catching in softball. So should you risk getting “atomic chaffing” on the off chance of missing a wild pitch? While not the same risk as pro ballplayers, there is definitely still a level of risk you should consider.
If you’re among the unlucky few who take a serious hit to your privates, it probably won’t be something you can just walk off. Injuries witnessed by sports medicine pros include testicular torsion or testicular rupture; types of trauma that can cause permanent damage.
Just because the chance of injury is lower than in other sports, doesn’t make it safe to avoid wearing a cup if you’re wearing the catcher’s mitt. Medical experts advise that everyone playing any kind of activity where a person or object could make hard, direct contact with your privates should be sporting a protective cup (and with very good reason.)
A survey from the University of California reports that over 200 people are hospitalized each year due to traumatic genital injuries from baseball and softball, numbers that include men and women!
Accidents happen and no one plans on getting a softball to their soft parts. So if you’re a catcher who wants to avoid being one of the unfortunate numbers who have to show the doctor their privates after a missed catch, then the cup (or pelvic protector) is for you.